Case Study: Saskatchewan Health Quality Council

Saskatchewan Health Quality Council: Engaging a Province to Increase the Quality of Health Care

The Situation

In 2006, the Saskatchewan Health Quality Council was looking to update its five-year Strategic Plan. SHQC’s CEO wasn’t satisfied with a mere paper exercise, and wanted a strategic planning process that would be disruptive – that would engage broadly, and that would hopefully be the kick-off point for whole-system change.

As a tiny agency, SHQC had little resources to have this sort of change if they approached the system directly – they could fund perhaps one or two new initiatives, but their ability to have a profound effect would be limited.

What they could do, however, was engage EVERYBODY in a collaborative process to discuss and plan ways to increase the quality of health care in the province. With a broad mandate and a universal need to meet, SHQC had the right to invite everyone into a room.

The Process

SHQC went out to RFP looking for someone to prepare their Strategic Plan, not knowing what they might find. The CT Labs team responded to the RFP because of our fascination with health care, and because we saw a potential opportunity to work with visionaries to transform a system. It seemed a match made in heaven.

When SHQC called and informed the CT Labs that we were the successful bidder, they told us that their decision keyed on a single sentence in our proposal; where we guaranteed that all of their stakeholders would see their needs and their voices reflected in the final Strategic Plan. They wanted meaningful, whole system engagement, and they got it.

The Planning phase of the engagement was one of the largest planning sessions we’ve yet run – a core team of almost 50 people; the CEOs and Presidents of every health authority in the province, along with a number of executives from the Provincial Government and SHQC worked with the CT Labs team to clarify the givens, the challenge, and the desired outcomes.

The Design of SHQC’s plan was everything that the Council could have asked for. Well over 200 leaders from Saskatchewan and National health authorities and agencies filled  16,000 square feet of meeting space on two blistering cold days in December, 2006.

With no pre-set agenda, and only an intention question to guide two days of work, the SHQC’s one grave reservation was: what if no one posts any topics? What was Plan B? There was no Plan B – and the leadership of SHQC is to be congratulated for their tremendous courage in invoking such a gathering without a Plan B.

The SHQC CEO thanked the assembled stakeholders, and provided the background, givens and framework for the day. He sat, and the CT Labs lead provided the 220-odd leaders with instructions for posting topics. Anything they felt needed to be discussed, that would respond to the intention question and work to improve health quality in the province of Saskatchewan was open for discussion.

The instructions, as always, finished with one word: “Go!”

The CT Labs Lead stood back.

The SHQC leadership team held their breath.

And over 60 of the assembled stakeholders got up as one, moved to the centre of the room, and started posting topics.

The Outcome

In all, close to 120 structured conversations took place over the course of the two days, and prioritization and personal passion and responsibility led to ten detailed action plans being created. The Book of Proceedings from the event ran to well over 200 pages.

The detailed information was everything that the HQC could have asked for: they knew what their stakeholders care about most, they knew why, they knew where passion and leadership and resources to help were available.

One key outcome from the day was that Mental Health found a stronger voice in the province of Saskatchewan at that event. Prioritization did not lead to the clear need for an action plan around Mental Health, but one individual stood up and claimed it as a topic needing attention. After he posted the topic, the room was amazed to see that almost a quarter of the topics discussed had ties to Mental Health, and an unspoken illness was able to speak with a very loud, clear voice.